Depressed man lay downin front of vehicles on M6

Date: Friday 23rd April 2010

A MAN aged 20 sent an emotional text message to his parents before lying down on the carriageway of the M6, where he was hit by a car being driven by a woman from Penrith followed by an HGV which was never traced, an inquest heard.

Greig Wilson Duncan, of Merkland Lane, Pittodrie, Aberdeen, wrote in the message: “I am sorry I have let you down. I could not make you proud. I love you and will always be with you.”

He was lying across the first open carriageway of the motorway, in a section of roadworks near Southwaite, when he was struck by a Mercedes being driven by Mrs. Anita Ryan, of Wordsworth Street, shortly after 2-30am on 2nd August.

Mrs. Ryan and her husband, George, were on their way back from Carlisle after having picked up their daughter, Jennie, who had been having a night out.

Speaking at the inquest held at Penrith on Tuesday, Mrs. Ryan said she was doing about 50mph after entering an area of roadworks. The inside lane was closed off, but the two outside lanes were available.

“We were just driving along and all of a sudden there was this person just lying across the middle carriageway with his feet towards the outside lane. As soon as I spotted him I just screamed and swerved,” said Mrs. Ryan.

The man was straddled across the carriageway with his back towards her and his head towards the cones. “I swerved into the outside lane,” said Mrs. Ryan. She was aware that her vehicle had hit him and thought she had gone over the bottom of his legs.

In a state of shock, she pulled up and stopped. Mr. Ryan got out of the car and went to see if he could provide assistance while his wife and their daughter called the emergency services.

“As I got out of the car I took five to 10 paces and a wagon came along. I saw and heard the impact which threw him off the roadway on to the other side of the cones,” said Mr. Ryan.

Mr. Duncan’s mother, Deborah, said her son, who was an apprentice oil and gas engineer working for AMEC, had been visiting a girl in Bournemouth. While travelling back up north in a Volkswagen Golf he contacted his parents to say that his vehicle was losing power.

His father, who is a motor mechanic, did not like the sound of what he heard and doubted whether the car would make it back it to Aberdeen. He put a tool box in his car in readiness to go out and meet his son en route.

Mrs. Duncan said it was decided that she would drive, which would allow her husband to be able to talk to their son. The next thing they heard was that the car had failed and he was on the hard shoulder of the M6, but could see a signpost for Southwaite services.

The inquest was told that after Mr. Duncan had broken down on the motorway he was spoken to by police who had told him that he should not be sitting in a car without lights. He told the policeman that his father was on his down to help him, but the officer said he should make his way to the service station, which was two miles away.

Evidence given to the inquest suggested that Mr. Duncan was having difficulty coping with the situation in which he found himself.

In response to a question from coroner Ian Smith about Mr. Duncan’s state of mind, his mother said her son had been having a few problems. He was upset about the death of his grandfather from cancer and she, too, had been diagnosed with the disease.

A long-term relationship had ended and the new girl, who he had been to see at Bournemouth, did not want to have a long distance relationship. They had met while she was studying in Aberdeen.

Mrs. Duncan said the last time she saw her son his mood was very good. “He was the happiest I had seen him in a long while,” she said.

However, the inquest heard that he had been suffering from depression for six months and was receiving treatment in the form of anti-depressant medication and counselling. He was also a cannabis user, but was trying to get off the drug, and was having problems at work with poor attendance.

Accident investigator PC Mark Dempster said it appeared that Mr. Duncan chose to lay down in the carriageway, but it was not clear whether it was a cry for help or a genuine suicide attempt.

PC Dempster said the impact generated by the small Mercedes driven by Mrs. Ryan was no more than a glancing blow to the legs, but he couldn’t say whether Mr. Duncan was alive or not at the time. The following, much greater, impact with the HGV, however, would definitely have killed him.

Before outlining the “unusual circumstances” of Mr. Duncan’s death, coroner Mr. Smith said he was not going to record a verdict of suicide,

“It was either a deliberate attempt to end his life or perhaps, more likely, it was a cry for help. If people are trying to kill themselves they usually step out in front of a very large vehicle,” said Mr. Smith.

In recording an open verdict, he added: “Events like these leave a terrible impact on everybody concerned.”